A few weeks ago, local artist Lydia Humphreys popped into PAL and asked if she could take a photo of me to paint my portrait for a series that she’s currently working on. Between blushing and laughing as she snapped the photo, I managed to ask her a couple of questions about the series, which she’s been releasing via social media. Perhaps what intrigues me most is that she paints each portrait in the color that she sees the person. Not their auras, necessarily, but the colors that she associates with that person. Last week, I had the fortune of meeting with Lydia to further discuss her art and this portrait series in particular.
Jill: Could you tell me a little about your background? Are you from Joplin? How long have you been involved in Joplin Arts?
Lydia: I’m from Joplin, but I’ve been involved in Joplin Arts for about two years, since I started college at MSSU. Although I’ve always drawn, painted, and taken lots of art classes, I didn’t want to do art. I wanted to become a physical therapist and work with kids with disabilities.
What changed that?
I did an internship in St. Louis and art was all around. Living in a bigger city you catch on to trends more, see the arts more, and art is everywhere. Being there helped me realize that art was a possibility, that I could do it my own way, that it was something that was attainable. I started making art in St. Louis.
Why do you do what you do? Why art?
My brain works better with art. It’s easier for me to communicate through art. I can express things that I don’t know how to verbalize.
What if what you’re trying to communicate is viewed differently by the viewer?
If the person doesn’t see what I’m going for, then I’m either not communicating it right or they aren’t the right person for it.
How do you work? Meaning do you have rituals or routine?
I always have headphones on to tune everything else out because I work mostly at school. I work alone, mostly, but sometimes with one friend.
What are some of your favorite mediums?
Mixed media, installations, everything. I’m intrigued by big installations. I did one and it was exhaustingly fun.
In addition to making art, you’ve curated exhibits. What appeals to you about curating the art of others?
I like making a space pristine with art. Something about walking into an area to see the art and not being there for anything else.
What generally inspires your work?
Right now, it’s varied. …I’m upset with issues that are interpreted wrong, like the emotions and actions of others. So I want to destigmatize. For example, I did a series about depression and anxiety.
I’d like to talk about this portrait series that you’re working on. Why depictions of people?
People make up the community. It all feels like family and I love community. It’s another way to support the community. And the act of making the art breaks the ice, helps me to get to know the individual better. I’m inspired by spending so much time with the faces, getting to know a certain type of beauty that’s often initially dismissed.
You’re painting these faces in the color that you see the person. You said not their auras, but the color that you associate with them. Could you discuss this a little more?
I assign certain colors and patterns to things so that I remember them. It’s the same for people. I’ll remember a face and a color that I’ve assigned to that face better than a name. But none of the colors have particular meanings to me. I don’t know why certain colors, it’s just what happens. It’s not always personality based. Sometimes I see the same color for someone who I like and for someone who I dislike.
Does the color come to you more easily for some people than others?
Yes. Sometimes I start one color and change to another color. I might assume a certain color, but when I go to mix it I realize it’s a different shade, hue, or value. Or more than one color. Sometimes the background is another color I associate with that person.
How have those depicted reacted to the paintings? Has anyone been surprised or disappointed about their color?
Generally, people are excited to be painted. One person did think the color I chose was weird, but others agree.
Do you know how many portraits you will paint for this series?
I don’t have a certain number in mind. The project needs to evolve somehow. I like the idea of a large amount of portraits. I want to do a lot.
I have one more question. Do you have a certain color that you associate with yourself?
Pink. Vibrant pink.
At the time of this interview (2/2/2017), there were 14 portraits in Lydia’s series, four of which are shown here. You can follow Lydia and her artwork on Facebook (Lydia Humphreys) or Instagram (lydia_humphreys).